NCAA Tournament 2014: Teams on the Bubble Who Will Make the Field

R. Cory SmithSenior Writer IMarch 6, 2014

Baylor forward Rico Gathers (2) celebrates a score in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Selection Sunday for the NCAA tournament is just over a week away, leaving several teams sweating it out during the end of the regular season into their conference tournaments.

While many programs are hoping for others to fall or to simply win their conference tournament to get into the Big Dance, others have nearly punched their ticket at the beginning of March.

Whether it's a team like Baylor who was left for dead after a miserable start in conference play or an Oregon team who started the season at 13-0 but met a similar fate in its conference, several teams have risen from the doldrums to sit comfortably on the bubble.

Before the major conference tournaments officially kick off, here's a look at a few teams that have solidified their spots in the NCAA bracket.

 

Arkansas Razorbacks (20-9, 9-7 SEC)

LEXINGTON, KY - FEBRUARY 27:  Coty Clarke #4 of the Arkansas Razorbacks celebrates during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena on February 27, 2014 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

It has been a roller-coaster ride for the Razorbacks and their fans, but it will all conclude with a berth in the NCAA tournament.

Thanks to two wins over Kentucky along with a six-game winning streak to get the team above .500 in the SEC, Arkansas is a near lock to make the field heading into the conference tournament.

Much of that success is thanks to freshman Bobby Portis, who is averaging over 12 points and six rebounds per game, along with Rashad Madden, who is putting together a great scoring season from behind the arch.

But one of the biggest factors for the Razorbacks' success this season is Coty Clarke. The senior has been a leader on the team throughout the season and has been a favorite of coach Mike Anderson, per Kurt Voigt of the Associated Press:

[Clarke is] a guy that is a glue guy that has slowly become the leader of this basketball team. [...] I think guys are following his beat. And if he can continue to play at the high level he is playing at right now, a lot of good things will continue to happen for this basketball team.

To me, the unselfishness that he brings to the table has kind of tripled throughout our basketball team.

With a certified leader on the court and the confidence of knocking off some of the top teams in the conference like both Kentucky and Georgia, Arkansas looks like a team heading in the right direction as March begins.

Thanks to the huge run, the Razorbacks already look like a team that doesn't need much help to get in. But with a strong showing at the SEC tournament, including a win or maybe two, Arkansas will be playing meaningful basketball late in March.

 

Oregon Ducks (21-8, 9-8 Pac-12)

Mar 4, 2014; Eugene, OR, USA; Oregon Ducks forward Elgin Cook (23) celebrates with Oregon Ducks Mike Moser (0) following a shot from Oregon Ducks Mike Moser (0) against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Matthew Knight Arena. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-US
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

It appears that Oregon has finally hit the urgency button with a six-game winning streak after a horrid start to the conference season.

The Ducks started the season with 13 straight wins but went 2-8 through the next 10 games with five of the losses coming by four points or less. But Oregon has finally jumped back on the horse and has a few great wins to show for it.

No win has been bigger for the Ducks in the last month than the one over UCLA, as the NCAA March Madness account on Twitter points out:

Bubble boost! @OregonMBB helped its at-large chances with a double OT win at UCLA. Check out the highlights: http://t.co/RQoWTkxTZs

— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) February 28, 2014

That road win was followed up by a win over USC, a team that is 1-15 in the conference, and Arizona State, another team that is ahead of the Ducks in the Pac-12 standings.

With one game remaining on the schedule before the Pac-12 tournament officially kicks off, the Ducks have a chance to get one more notable win. But even if they take a loss to No. 3 Arizona (28-2, 15-2 Pac-12) on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET, the Ducks might need just a win in the conference tournament to make the field.

 

Baylor Bears (20-10, 8-9 Big 12)

Mar 4, 2014; Waco, TX, USA; Baylor Bears center Isaiah Austin (21) celebrates after winning against the Iowa State Cyclones during the second half of a mens basketball game at The Ferrell Center. Baylor won 74-61. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY S
Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

After a 12-1 start to the season with the lone loss coming to then-No. 8 Syracuse, Baylor looked like a guarantee to make the field.

But the wheels fell off after that point. Much like Oregon, Baylor slipped in conference play to a 2-8 record with an embarrassing loss to Texas Tech and blowout defeats to teams like Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas.

Since that point, Baylor has won six out its last seven, culminating in a huge win over No. 16 Iowa State, 74-61, on Tuesday night. That win all but solidified a berth for the Bears, according to ESPN's Joe Lunardi:

Two (inc. Big 12 tourney) is plenty. “@tpayne105: @ESPNLunardi How about Baylor? Win one more or two more and in? or need to do more?”

— Joe Lunardi (@ESPNLunardi) March 4, 2014

With a stiff test coming up against Kansas State (20-10, 10-7) on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET, the Bears could all but assure a spot in the field with a win.

Even without another resume-building win, the Bears will still have another opportunity to do so in the Big 12 tournament. Before potentially making a run through the NCAA bracket, Baylor might be a dark-horse contender to ensure a spot in the tournament with a Big 12 tournament championship.

 

Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter: